Report suggests Livestrong lobbyist could have sought to influence USADA investigation into Armstrong
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Report suggests Livestrong lobbyist could have sought to influence USADA investigation into Armstrong

by Shane Stokes at 8:27 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Polician’s office states that unnamed individual ‘laid out concerns’ about case

Lance ArmstrongWith USADA’s case against Lance Armstrong currently delayed from going to arbitration due to the latter’s application to a court in Texas to try to overturn the action, the Texan’s Livestrong/Lance Armstrong Foundation charity has come into focus due to a report that a lobbyist representing it may have sought to influence the investigation.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the charity sent one of its lobbyists to Capitol Hill last week in order to discuss USADA’s funding and the charges against Armstrong

The newspaper states that a spokesman for the New York Democrat José Serrano confirmed that his office was visited by a Livestrong lobbyist.

Serrano sits on the House Appropriations Committee. Appropriations committees from the House and US Senate Control the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which in turn supplies approximately two thirds of USADA’s annual $15 million budget.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation has played down the claims, calling suggestions that the lobbyist outlined his concerns about the process as being ‘inaccurate’. She said that the topic of USADA may have come up in passing, but that the main reason for the visit was related to the charity itself.

Serrano’s spokesman sees things differently, saying that the lobbyist was focussed on taking about USADA and, specifically, about the fairness of the process.

USADA is appointed to oversee anti-doping matters in the US, and tests American athletes across a range of sports. Armstrong has provided samples to USADA in the past, thus recognising its authority in that regard, but he and his legal team are now arguing that it doesn’t have jurisdiction and the UCI must instead handle disciplinary actions.

The UCI, which denies claims that it helped cover up a positive test by Armstrong in the 2001 Tour de Suisse, previously accepted that USADA has jurisdiction in the investigation.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, Lance Armstrong Foundation president Doug Ulman twice criticised USADA in statements released last month.

Indications that the case had taken a political turn manifested last Thursday when Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner protested USADA’s case to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

His office has claimed that it was acting independently of Armstrong’s legal team, although the language of those complaints closely mirrored that used by Armstrong’s legal team in previous documents.

He claimed that “USADA seeks to strip Armstrong of his achievements and the substantial winnings that accompanied them without offering him even basic due process.” Sensenbrenner also said that USADA's authority over Armstrong "is strained at best.”

USADA countered by saying that regardless of Armstrong’s popularity and admirers on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, that it had a responsibility to clean athletes.

“Were we not to bring this case, we would be complicit in covering up evidence of doping, and failing to do our job on behalf of those we are charged with protecting,” said USADA’s CEO Travis Tygart, who called the evidence ‘overwhelming.’

One day later, Republican senator and former presidential candidate John McCain declared his support for USADA, saying that the process was the proper forum to decide matters concerning individual cases of alleged doping violations.

“USADA’s rules and processes, approved by America’s athletes, the United States Olympic Committee and all U.S. sport federations, apply to all athletes regardless of their public profile or success in sport,” he stated.

The United States district court in Austin, Texas has set August 10th as the date for its hearing. The outcome of that will determine if the case goes before USADA’s arbitration panel.

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